What are the measles?
- Measles, or rubeola, is a viral infection of the respiratory system. Measles is a very contagious disease that can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. An infected person can release the infection into the air when they cough or sneeze.
- The measles virus can live on surfaces for several hours. As the infected particles enter the air and settle on surfaces, anyone within close proximity can become infected.
- Drinking from an infected person’s glass, or sharing eating utensils with an infected person, increases your risk of infection.
- Measles is a leading cause of death in children. Of the 114,900 global deaths related to measles in 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that most of the victims were under the age of 5.
- Contact a doctor immediately if you suspect you have measles. If you have not received a measles vaccine and you come into contact with an infected person, visit your doctor to receive a measles vaccine within 72 hours of contact to prevent infection. You can also prevent an infection with a dose of immunoglobulin taken within six days of contact with an infected person.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms of measles generally appear within 14 days of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:
- red eyes
- light sensitivity
- muscle aches
- runny nose
- sore throat
- white spots inside the mouth
A widespread skin rash is a classic sign of measles. This rash can last up to seven days and generally appears within the first three to five days of exposure to the virus.
A measles rash, which appears as red, itchy bumps, commonly develops on the head and slowly spreads to other parts of the body.
Who is at risk for measles?
- The number of measles cases has significantly dropped in recent decades due to immunizations. However, the disease has not been completely eliminated.
- Measles primarily occurs in unvaccinated children. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for fear that vaccines will have adverse effects on their children. Most children and adults who receive a measles vaccine do not experience side effects.
- But in rare cases, the vaccine has been linked to seizures, deafness, brain damage, and coma. It is important to note that these serious side effects from the measles vaccine occur in less than 1 out of every million doses of the vaccine given.
- Some parents believe that the measles vaccine can cause autism in children. However, numerous studies have proven that there is no link between autism and immunizations.
- A vitamin A deficiency is also a risk factor for measles. Children with too little vitamin A in their diets have a higher risk of catching the virus.
- Your doctor can confirm measles by examining your skin rash and checking for symptoms that are characteristic of the disease, such as white spots in the mouth, fever, cough, and sore throat.
- If they are unable to confirm a diagnosis based on observation, your doctor may order a blood test to check for the measles virus.
How to treat measles
There is no prescription medication to treat measles. The virus and symptoms typically disappear within two to three weeks. However, your doctor may recommend:
- paracetamol to relieve fever and muscle aches
- rest to help boost your immune system
- plenty of fluids (six to eight glasses of water a day)
- humidifier to ease a cough and sore throat
- vitamin A supplements
Complications associated with measles
It is important to receive a measles vaccine because measles can lead to life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).
Other complications associated with measles may include:
- ear infection
- miscarriage or preterm labor
- decrease in blood platelets
- severe diarrhea
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